If an honest question is asked from India’s citizens about their faith in India’s legal system and their police- I’m sure most answers would be a representative of how little people believe in justice being served at their local police stations or how justice would be delayed if they went to courts. And can you even blame them? India has maintained a constant track record of corruption and inefficiency of the law maintenance system. The only difference is even though we witness it every single day in one little thing or the other when something happens at a large scale that questions our entire justice system, it makes us question our conscience and brings us back to square one.
The Munawar Faruqui case is one such question. A comedian, whose whole profession is based on cracking jokes, was put in jail for the very same thing. Apparently, he, a Muslim man, was charged by BJP MLA Malini Gaur’s son Eklavya Singh Gaur, for hurting Hindu religious sentiments through his joke on Hindu gods. Even though there are a lot of reasons for this case to strike conversations amongst the people, including its handling and aftermath, the basic premise of the controversy is the entire arrest of a comedian for merely doing his jobs i.e. telling jokes, which is a big blow out in the face of freedom of speech and expression. Religious sentiments have become more fragile than ever and incidents relating to the same are witnessed every single day- be it in the form of boycott calls for Tanishq ad or the Tandav controversy.
Faruqui’s requests for bail have been repeatedly rejected by the Local Chief Judicial Magistrate and the Additional District and Session Court, despite the freedom of expression and legal precedents on Section 295A, ‘bail not jail’. This points only in the direction of deliberate ignorance, which is not excusable, despite media not talking about it at all. The plea was then moved in the Madhya Pradesh Court, which was first adjourned by the court for a week after the Indore Police failed to produce the right documents. This shows how lightly somebody’s life, who is not in a position of power, is taken. Even if you don’t see a problem in the basic premise of arrest, the continued wrongful detention of Munawar Faruqui and his team is a problematic feat and reveals the loosened thread of law and order in the country.
If we get into a little technicality, you may notice that the denial of Faruqui and his team’s bail has nothing to do with the law. The bail can only be denied in the possibility of the accused fleeing, tampering or burying evidence or influence witnesses, all of which however is not a case of the Munawar Faruqui’s detention. Despite this, the bail plea by the Single bench Justice of Indore branch of Madhya Pradesh court ruled in denial of bail, saying “such people must not be sparred.”
However, it’s not like the governing principle of ‘bail not jail’ doesn’t work at all. Does its governance just change from people to people, or maybe religion to religion?
The Supreme court bench headed by justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee criticised the Bombay High Court’s denial of bail to Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami, in the light that “Prima facie, on the application of the test which has been laid down by this court in a consistent line of authority… it cannot be said that the appellant was guilty of having abetted the suicide within the meaning of Section 306 of the IPC.” The Supreme court alleged Bombay High Court of abdicating its constitutional duties and functions as a prosecutor if liberty. On similar lines, it said that “…It is the duty of courts across the spectrum — the district judiciary, the high courts and the Supreme Court — to ensure that the criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens,”
Wow, if only these worked in case of every one. As mentioned earlier, the basis for denial of bail was not met in Munawar Faruqui’s case and he was still denied bail with a rather degrading statement. Apparently, those bases weren’t met in Arnab Goswami’s case either and were thus, ruled out by the Supreme Court saying “The appellants are residents of India and do not pose a flight risk during the investigation or the trial. There is no apprehension of tampering of evidence or witnesses. Taking these factors into consideration, the order dated 11 November 2020 envisaged the release of the appellants on bail.” A fair judgement to seek all parameters is needed to ensure the service of justice. But when those parameters change according to people and circumstances, it makes one wonder if justice is actually the end result after all.
The purpose of this article is not to question the Apex Court’s judgement of provision of bail in the Arnab Goswami, it is to discuss the non-bail in Munawar Faruqui’s case, it is to call out the bias in judgements and thus, justice, which shakes the roots of the entire system. It is not only the police’s inability to treat people fairly and indulge in corrupt activities but also the justice system’s failed policies to ensure equal and fair treatment to people. While we move on with our lives like nothing new has happened, we normalise this penetrating unjust treatment between those with the authority of money and power over those standing at a position of weakness, which a country is responsible for protecting. Whether Munawar Faruqui’s denied bail is a result of growing religious intolerance or a biased system, we can see a problem loud and clear, and if we still choose to stay silent about it, as our media has been, we’re equally a part of the problem.